Guns on campus spark questions on lock down policy

Breana Petersen, Reporter

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On Friday, January 27, there was an incident with multiple guns on North High School’s campus. Most of the North High School students and staff had no idea such an incident was happening because no lockdown was put into place. Many people wondered how guns could be present and yet no lockdown procedure was activated. North Principal, Michael Vukovich and Des Moines Public School communication director, Phillip Roeder both cite the reasoning being “no immediate threat” to North High.

Vukovich said the incidents Friday, started while he was looking on the cameras for an unrelated reason when he saw something suspicious, a student out of class.

“I watched [the student] leave the building and go into a car for a while; come back in and then go to a different locker and put their backpack in the locker. So when that happened I advised some of the staff to go talk to the student. Ask some questions and see if the student would lie; [the] student lied, so then we said basically ‘take us to the locker’, [he] tired to take us a to a different locker [than the one we saw on the cameras]. So then when we finally got the student to the locker and opened up the locker, the student grabbed the bag and took off,” Vukovich said.

Then the staff pursued the student out of the building, where he threw the backpack in question and ran off.

“We got the backpack, brought it back [to North], searched it and that’s when we found the drugs and the gun. And then that’s when we were like ‘oh, that’s not good. Let’s get on the cameras more, track some more, see if we can see any other things that are going on, maybe there’s more,” he said.

After tracking the cameras back, Vukovich said he noticed more suspicious activity with exchanging backpacks.

“[We] made the announcement to all the radios that if you see certain students coming back from lunch that we will detain them and search them. When we did that they did not comply, jumped in the car and took off. And the cop pulled them over, searched and found the guns,” Vukovich said.

The procedures for lockdown are written in the school’s policy and procedure handbook, and Roeder explained, “The school decided not to go on lock down because there was no immediate threat being made to anyone in school or on school grounds, nor were the weapons displayed to anyone in school. The weapons were found and confiscated off of school property by school officials or law enforcement.”

For a lockdown to occur there needs to be an immediate threat. Many wondered what that would look like.

“Anything that is going to cause either harm to a person or destruction of property,” School Resource Officer, Jason Sims said.

Principal Vukovich explains a little further, “Some examples of that would be like [a] kid sees a weapon in a backpack or something like that. [Or a] kid is going around showing it, or something like that. [Or] somebody robs a bank at gunpoint and is running towards the area of the school, than we may lock down the outer doors so that he can’t get in, things of that nature.”

In order for the school to stay safe the students also have to help keep the school safe. Communication direct Roeder has a message for the students of Des Monies Public Schools.

“It is always important that if people see or know anything that may pose a threat or danger at school, they say something. While the school district invests in everything from security cameras to school resource officers to help keep our schools safe, it is also important that if students are aware of someone who has a weapon or who may harm themselves or others that [they] let an adult they trust – a teacher or counselor or coach or SRO – know of the situation,” Roeder said.

Principal Vukovich has a message for anyone concerned about the school’s safety.

“I think we have an extremely safe school … When we have a community in Des Monies schools where you have gangs in the community, you have criminal elements in the community. Our kids are not immune to being a part of those things … I think every kid that got in trouble had it on them for their protection. None of it was for doing any harm to any of the students in the school … Each one of them said, they were obviously upset that it happened but they were also like, ‘I’m scared when I walk home’. I don’t downplay that, it’s obviously no excuse to bring a gun on school property, you never should or never will that be tolerated … I just think that it’s the real world, I don’t know how else to put it,” Vukovich said.

 

 

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